Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
(212) 428-2500

Date: Nov. 30, 2005

Seal of the Unified Court System
www.nycourts.gov
Court Leaders Submit Budget Request Containing Funding for Judicial Pay Increase, Focusing Attention on Judicial Compensation Inequity: Judges in New York State Have Gone Longer without a Raise Than Colleagues in Any Other State or Federal Court in the Nation

ALBANY, NY - Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye today strongly called on the Legislature and the Governor to act on the crisis in judicial compensation that presently exists in New York State. In support of her call for action, Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman formally submitted to the Governor and the Legislature a budget request for the fiscal year 2006-07 which contains $69.5 million to fund an increase in judicial salaries. The urgency of judicial compensation reform is clear:

∙ New York State judges have gone seven years without a pay increase—longer than judges in any other state or federal court in the country.

∙ During this same time period, the cost of living has increased by over 26 percent.

∙ A judge serving since 1995 has received only one pay increase in 11 years (in 1999), while a judge serving since 1988 has received just two pay increases in 18 years (1993 and 1999).

∙ A growing number of State employees now earn more than judges of major New York trial courts because they have received regular cost of living adjustments over this time period.

Inclusion of funding for judicial pay raises in the Judiciary’s budget request puts this issue front and center on the agenda for the coming legislative session. The Legislature and the Governor are being asked to approve the budget request as submitted, including the earmarked funding for salary increases, and to enact such increases into law. Judicial salary levels in New York require action by the State Legislature and approval by the Governor.

The court system’s proposal would:

∙ Increase the salary level for justices of the State Supreme Court, New York’s highest trial court, restoring the traditional parity with salaries of Federal District Court Judges (scheduled to increase to $165,200 on January 1, 2006)

∙ Proportionately increase the pay levels of all other judges while addressing the most unfair instances of judicial pay disparity around the state

∙ Provide a retroactive pay increase for judges back to the date of the original judicial pay proposal, April 1, 2005

In support of the budget request, the Judiciary will again vigorously pursue its legislative proposal on judicial compensation reform, which gained many key supporters in Albany during the 2005 legislative session. Thanks to the outreach efforts of hundreds of judges around the state, the proposal was introduced verbatim in both houses, and Governor Pataki expressed support for judicial pay raises and submitted his own bill calling for a judicial salary increase. Negotiations continued through the last hours of the session, but the Legislature adjourned before an agreement could be reached.

“Fair, reasonable compensation for judges is absolutely essential to ensure that New York has the most capable, experienced individuals to take on the weighty public responsibilities of judicial service in one of the busiest court systems in the nation,” said Chief Judge Kaye. “New York’s judges have continued longer without a salary increase than judges in any other state or federal court in the nation—a dubious distinction for our state. New York must put an end to its history of sporadic pay increases following unacceptably long intervals without adjustments. Fair compensation for all state judges is my highest priority. I urge the Governor and the Legislature to make fair compensation for judges their priority during this upcoming legislative session.”

“A salary adjustment for New York State judges is woefully past due,” said Chief Administrative Judge Lippman. “There has been a dramatic erosion in the real value of judicial income, which has not kept pace with New York’s high cost of living. Judges in New York are underpaid by any measure—whether compared to cost-of-living indices, judicial pay levels in the federal and other state judiciaries, income levels of private or government attorneys in the state, or salary growth of other state employees. We have incorporated funding for judicial pay raises in our budget request this year to prominently highlight this issue and the need for immediate action on judicial compensation reform.”

The Judiciary’s budget request for fiscal year 2006-07 is $1.96 billion, a budget responsive to the State’s continuing fiscal difficulties which contains a minimal increase in discretionary spending of less than one percent. The budget was delivered to the Governor and legislative leaders this afternoon with a cover letter from Judge Lippman highlighting the judicial salary increase. The entire budget request, including the proposed salary increase, was approved by the New York Court of Appeals as required by the State Constitution.

 

 
Web page updated: August 16, 2006